I made a promise that changed everything.
I lived at an elevated lifestyle due to my inheritance — not due to my own efforts. My siblings toed the line and got their ten millions. I, on the other hand, banked everything on my talent, my smarts. In any case, my mother assured me she would make up the difference in her will someday, when we talked about my selling out of the family business.
It didn’t occur to me to get that offhand assurance in writing.
I underestimated one brother in particular. It’s not hard to wrest power-of-attorney from an old person with declining faculties, especially if they trust you already. It’s an old story. Add to that the fact that I was stupid, naive and unprepared for how that would play out.
Adding insult to injury, I tried to interfere toward the end of her life when it was obvious she was being mistreated.That put me on the wrong side of the guy with the power. All he had to do was wave a hand and I was disinherited. It was a no-brainer.
Anyone — except me — could have predicted it.
My transition from privilege and robust good health to a tumble toward homelessness and bad health was not sudden. It took almost five years. I kept grabbing for a foothold on the side of the mountain I was slipping uncontrollably down, but I had lived as a hermit for fifty years. I didn’t understand the world most people have to live in.
I counted on a promise from my naive mother that she would make up for my decision to be an artist when my father cut me off, but she had no idea that she actually had no power to make her own decisions about her money. A certain doted-upon child would make that decision for her.
I would be disinherited.
Is that an injustice? I ask the question seriously. All that time that I was living a dream few can imagine, a plot was forming to yank my financial support from under me.
But here I am, almost eighty years old, finding my footing in a world of ideas and language.
I would like to suggest an idea. It’s a simple idea — that this denouement is a fulfillment of my deepest self. Yes, it’s too bad that I had to be stripped of everything because I was unwilling to write. But I had, after all, made a promise to my dead brother. I couldn’t go back on that.
Because, when my older brother died and I was given his paints and brushes, I secretly promised him that I would fulfill his mission to paint. I stuck to it and brought some good paintings into the world, no doubt very different works from what he would have done.
I was just nineteen when I made that decision. I gave up my writing path before it was begun, then, not realizing that reversing that decision would require the gods to take out their big guns and blow my easy life to smithereens.
Strange idea, isn’t it?
Of course, I liked being rich. It was easy. Life was full of little pleasures. And people admire you. They don’t know where your elevated status came from. In France, old money is common. Nobody looks askance at that.
But, finding your real purpose in living may require more challenges, more difficulties. Sorry to say it, but the evidence is there. Money and privilege doesn’t necessarily bring out your real self. You’re tempted to coast.
Not that creating real art can be called coasting. I still had my challenges, but I also had advantages I took for granted.
You may think that if you had enough money and comfort, you’d naturally do the right thing.
You probably won’t.
Maybe there are things more important than success in the world. The soul came here for a reason. It doesn’t like being deflected from its intention.
My publication on Medium is Anima Fire.
I gather writing that inspires me on my website, http://animafire.com/. Only some of that writing is my own. Most of it is from thinkers that inspire me.